Even though the term “collaboration” describes how people work together to solve business issues, the bottom line is that “collaboration” needs all forms of communication and information exchange between people. For that reason, the flexibility of “unified communications” (UC) is an implied capability for person-to-person business contacts.
Business collaboration, through UC enablement, can now be done more easily and quickly from anywhere and anytime that doesn’t require sitting in the same room together or using identical communication endpoint devices. However, such collaborative activity will still be dependent on every individual end user’s involvement and choice of communication interaction.
“Collaboration” means working together and communicating with others, but such communications are not always in real time, e.g., face-to face meetings, conferencing, and chat. Asynchronous messaging is increasingly becoming more practical for quickly exchanging information and views, without necessarily having a real-time interaction.
Whenever a discussion in real-time is required, voice and/or video conferencing can now be quickly initiated or scheduled, depending on the availability of the participants. This is where UC enabled applications allow dynamic shifting between modalities of communications to satisfy the collaborative needs of the active participants.
“Collaboration,” like the traditional face-to-face meeting, doesn’t start automatically; someone has to do something to get the interactions with other people going. That “something” is a communication action, like a message or a phone call to the people who are to “collaborate.”
In addition to being a simple notification, information pertinent to the discussion may need to be referenced to provide the context for review and discussion. So, people who “collaborate” will be using a variety of ways to communicate and exchange information in real time or asynchronously, and that’s where the flexibility of UC enablement comes into play.
Do People Who Collaborate Need Identical Devices?
Clearly, business communications are not confined to people within a single organization, but will involve people outside an organization as well. In addition, with the rapid increase in mobile communications and BYOD policies, individual end users will be collaborating (communicating) under different circumstances and with different endpoint devices. Some will be sitting in front of desktops (PCs, laptops, tablets), while others may be involved while using mobile smartphones.
For messaging exchanges, mobile end users will have few problems in communicating when on the go. If the required information exchange involves a lot of data or video, a larger screen from a tablet may be better than a smartphone. However, when a real time conference is required, mobile participants can handle a voice conference easily, but not a videoconference well. So, the recent advent of UC enabled video conferencing will provide the flexibility for individual end users to choose various flavors of video and voice participation that fit their needs and preferences.
The Implementation Bottom Line for IT management, Solution Integrators, and Channels
Individual end users will not be thinking along the lines of “collaboration,” but rather about how they want to access and interact with people and automated (self-service) business applications.
This will be particularly important as end users all become more mobile and dependent upon smartphone and tablet devices for everything they do with others. That is the level that UC enablement provides for the flexibility of end user choice to fit their personal needs and preferences.
Obviously, providing end users with such communication flexibility will allow them to more easily and efficiently collaborate with others. So, for business management, collaboration benefits will be foremost, but for individual end users, personalized UC benefits will be most visible and realistically exploited.
The bottom line for implementation of UC enabled applications is for IT management, with the support of VARs and Channels, to integrate them for private or public cloud-based use in order to support both desktop and mobile device usage. This is how “collaboration” technologies will actually get done in the new world of UC enablement.
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Edited by Jennifer Russell